The Washington State Capitol was designed as a group of buildings by the architectural firm of Wilder and White of New York City, the winners of a nationwide competition to design a suitable capitol for the state. As the majestic classical buildings were being constructed on the hill overlooking the city of Olympia, with a view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, the architects and the Capitol Committee turned their attention to the design of suitable furnishing to compliment the imposing structures. Instead of ordering manufactured furniture and stock fixtures, the Committee worked with Wilder and White to create furnishings for the statewide elected officials’ offices, public spaces, state reception room and House and Senate chambers. Other offices also had furniture designed for their specific use. This collection of furnishings constitutes “the original and historic furnishings” that the Capitol Furnishings Preservation Committee seeks to identify, restore and preserve.
To learn more about the design and building of the State Capitol Group:
“Architects Struggled with Materialists to Save Beauty of Design,” Charles H.Bebb, The Washingtonian—A State Magazine of Progress, March, 1928
Johnston, Norman J. Washington’s Audacious State Capitol and Its Builders, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1988
To learn about the historic furniture:
“World’s Finest Craftsmen Built Capitol Furniture, Will Establish a New Period in Design for Future Generations—and Completes Undying Monumental Structure for Seat of Government," Mark A. Shields, The Washingtonian—A State Magazine of Progress, March, 1928
More images of the historic furnishings from The Washingtonian—A State Magazine of Progress, March, 1928
TIPS ON IDENTIFYING ORIGINAL STATE CAPITOL FURNISHINGS
What to Look For:
- Does it have any identifying marks or tags, and what do they say? Look for makers’ marks in or on the bottoms of drawers, stamped into bottom of chair seat or trash cans, or etched in cast brass locksets (for roll top desks, primarily).
- Look for metal or paper inventory tags on undersides of chair rails, inside the front face of the seat, or on the insides of swivel feet.
- Look for lettering or initials in white chalk
- Does the piece have a “story”? (Where is it, and how did it get there? Why is it thought to be original to the Capitol?)
Notes on the original makers and suppliers:
- W. & J. Sloane of New York – Supplied Class A-1 Furnishings in walnut and mahogany for the State Reception Room and Governor’s Offi ce.
Makers’ mark is a shield-shaped logo stamped into the bottom of the piece, that reads “The Company of Master Craftsmen”
- Lowman & Hanford Co. of Seattle, subcontracted with Doten-Dunton Desk Co. – Supplied Class A-2 furnishings in oak, walnut and mahogany for the House and Senate, as well as Lt. Governor, Treasurer, Auditor. They supplied the greatest array of offi ce furnishings characteristic of the collection, including walnut glass-front bookcases and walnut armchairs in executive offi ces, executive chairs with seal on back, “bun-foot” furnishings, oak roll-tops and “typists desks.” Supplied wicker furnishings for ladies rest rooms and phone rooms. Makers’ mark for D&D is shield-shaped with name running diagonally up and across the shield and the words “commercial furniture” along the lower curved edge. Also printed on lock sets of desks.
- Irving & Casson – A.H. Davenport Co. of Boston – Supplied Class A-3 furnishings purchased for the House and Senate Chambers: House and Senate rostrum desks, members’ desks and chairs (walnut for the House, mahogany for the Senate), the couches and furnishings in the wings, gallery pews. No makers’ marks found for this company.
- West Made Desk Co. of Seattle* – Supplied Class B-1 Furnishings through:
Chairs by Johnson Chair Co. of Chicago
Chairs by H.L. Marble Chair Co., of Bedford, Ohio+
Couches by Washington Manufacturing Co.
Bookcases by Globe-Wernicke Co. of Cincinnati*
Metal furnishings by The Bookstore, of Olympia and Globe-Wernicke
*Makers marks for these suppliers were typically on stickers.
+Makers mark looks like a pressed wax seal, w/shape of chair seat set in a circle, surrounded by the company name and location. All wood furnishings in oak. Roll-top and flat-top desks, tables, various desk and offi ce chairs, and a multitude of coat racks, umbrella stands and
waste baskets placed throughout the building. Metal furnishings included vault equipment and house and senate lockers.
- Standard Office Equipment Co. – Supplied Class B-2 furnishings, through:
Desks by Cutler Desk Co., Buffalo NY
Desks by Commercial Desk Co., Chicago
Chairs by Sikes Chair Co., of Philadelphia
Davenports by F.S. Harmon Co., Tacoma
Bookcases by Puget Sound Mfg. Co., Tacoma
Bookcases by Globe-Wernicke Co., Cincinnati
Mostly oak, mostly placed in the offices of the Division of Municipal Corporations, in the Department of Licenses, in the Press Room, Phone Room and administrative and support offi ces. These include classic oak side chairs and swivel desk chairs, and simple oak desks and tables with square legs and brass-capped feet.